Ed Messina is just not a\only a dear friend, a long time fellow member of High Hill Striper Club and our conservation chairman, but also one of my mentors and a hell of a surfcaster in his own rights. After listening his passionate plea to our club membership, I asked him to write it for SJ blog.
Edward J. Messina, Ph.D.
For the last several years recreational anglers have been confused by the lack of action on the part of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) to do something about their perceived decrease in the striped bass population. Additionally, this lack of action has frustrated the recreational angler community because of the failure to respond to the coast wide urging of the fishing community that something was wrong with the striped bass population. This has led to a perceived bias towards the commercial side of the fishery because they are better organized and financed.
So when activists within the recreational fishing community ask anglers to call, e-mail or write their representatives at the ASMFC, or their state legislators, they are loathed to do so because “nobody cares and nothing is ever done about it”. Whether true or not the argument from their side is that the ASMFC’s track record is pretty poor since its establishment in 1942. In the New York area more often then not they say “yeah what happened to the fluke, flounder and weakfish”, the species most often targeted.
So this is the background for this piece. However, what is the reality? Well in spite of the admonitions of the recreational angler, that the sky is falling, the ASMFC by law does not have to do anything unless its so-called measures of stock assessments fall below some threshold level for action. I do not want to get into the technical nature of these measurements but suffice it to say that if these stock assessments thresholds are not breached the ASMFC does not have to do anything. This is the first problem with fishery management, as stocks assessments are loaded with many inaccuracies and the forecasts and projections made by these assessments faulty at best.
The ASMFC uses two sources of data 1) fishery-dependent data and 2) fishery-independent data. The first is collected from information collected from fisherman and dealers. Can you imagine that! What fisherman the one on the dock and warehouse or the one on the beach, a pile of rocks or the one on a bridge or pier? The second is collected by scientists via a long-term survey or other scientific study. While I have problems with both sources of data it is the last of these two that I will focus on because in my 50 years as a surf caster, I and many of you that prowl the beaches, bays, rock piles, bridges and piers have never been a part of a survey. So who are they surveying? Where do these surveyors lurk? What is the quality of the information? Is the population of fisherman surveyed more representative of the boating angler or the shore bound angler? Are adjustments made to the data given the advantage a boater has over a shore bound angler?
It is these questions and many more that now urges me to ask all NY recreational fisherman, who fish for their beloved striped bass, to be active in the generation of more accurate data by enrolling in one of the two data collection programs run by the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation. For all other anglers I urge you to find out if your state has similar programs. I must admit until a few days ago I did not know this program existed. The collection of real data by a wider spectrum of anglers will carry greater weight with the policy makers and perhaps lead to quicker action.
Basically there are two data collection programs. 1. The Striped bass Cooperative Anglers Program and 2. The Electronic Fishing Logbook. Both programs can be found on the NYS DEC website.
DIRECTIONS FOR ENROLLING INTO THE STRIPED BASS COOPERATIVE ANGLERS PROGRAM OR THE ELECTRONIC FISHING LOGBOOK.
Step 1.: Go to NY State Department of Environmental Conservation web site. The URL is below
Step 2.: On the left hand side of the screen you will find a group of Headings that have drop down menus. Click on Outdoors Activities and the subheading Saltwater. On the left side of the screen you will see the Striped Bass Cooperative Anglers Program (11 headings down).
Step 3.:Click on this and then scroll to the bottom and you will now see the information for the eLogbook. I prefer this program as you do not have to remove scales from the bass and keep the fish out of the water any longer than necessary. Under eLogbook, on the 10th line down click on register and log on line. The SAFIS screen will appear. For your user name type in your e-mail address and for your password use your e-mail address password. After you enter this information another page will come up where you will fill in your profile information. When you finish and submit the information you will be given a USER name by SAFIS. Now to log on use the USER name given to you by SAFIS and your e-mail address as you password. When you arrive at the reports page click on your favorites and add the URL to a Folder you name fishing. In the future, you will just go to your favorites and click on the URL and you will get to the Report screen immediately. It saves time and frustration.
If you have any problems call Julia Socrates at: 631-444-0473. She is very helpful.
It is extremely important that in whatever program you sign up for, do not make the common mistake of only filing reports when you catch a bass. For the data to have a basis in reality, all fishing efforts have to be reported whether or not you catch a bass!
See you on the beach!